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Baklava

Nut-filled layers of filo pastry, flavoured with spices and drenched with a fragrant syrup is one of the most irresistible sweet treats. This adapted recipe is not overly sweet or spicy. Make baklava at least two hours or up to a day before serving to allow the syrup to work it’s way through all the layers.

Nut filling
300 g nuts (see Note below)
125ml sugar
10 ml ground cinnamon
5 ml mixed spice

Filo pastry
1 x 500g pack filo pastry
125 g melted butter

Syrup
375 ml sugar
375ml water
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
30 ml lemon juice
45 ml honey
15 ml brandy or rose water
15 ml sherry (optional but good)

  1. Combine the selected nuts to make up 300g and place into the bowl of a food processor. Use the “pulse action” and chop the nuts very briefly until coarsely and evenly chopped but not too fine. Stop once or twice in between and stir to allow the larger pieces to move closer to the blade.
  2. Add the sugar and spices and mix.
  3. Brush the base and sides of a rectangular dish or baking tray (± 30 x 20 x 6cm) with melted butter and pre-heat the oven to 170°C (see notes below) .
  4. Divide the pastry sheets into four and the nut mixture into three. Line the dish with the first ¼ of filo pastry, brushing lightly in between all sheets with the melted butter. Fold the pastry in at the sides if necessary but do not cut away and discard any pastry. Brush the top of the last layer with melted butter.
  5. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture over the pastry and repeat until four layers of pastry with three layers of nuts in between have been made, ending with pastry. Brush the rest of the butter over the top.
  6. Mark the pastry into diamonds or squares (2 ½ – 3 cm side length) with a sharp knife, cutting through the top layers only to prevent the syrup from accumulating in the dish under the last layer.
  7. Bake about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  8. To make the syrup, place the sugar, water, cinnamon stick, cloves and lemon juice in a small saucepan and stir over a moderate heat until the sugar has melted.
  9. Simmer gently for 10 minutes to become syrupy. Remove from heat, stir in the honey and flavouring and allow to cool while the pastry is still baking.
  10. Remove the pastry from the oven and pour the cooled syrup slowly and evenly over the hot pastry.
  11. Allow to cool completely (at least 3 hours) to absorb all the syrup before cutting through the marked lines into diamonds or squares.
  12. Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Baklava may be frozen to extend the period of enjoyment!

Serves 24 – 30 portions, depending on size.

Notes

  • Combine at least three kinds of nuts or even more for the best flavour. You can include Walnuts, Sliced Almonds, Pistachios, Pecans, Macadamias, Brazil Nuts or Cashew Pieces.
  • Selecting a dish or baking tray in such a way that one side of the dish corresponds with the width of the filo pastry will make the layering process a pleasure and the end result as neat as can be.

Recipe by Carolié de Koster for the Art Of Cooking Recipe Book p. 787.

Baklava